Énergir L.P., Quebec's largest natural gas distribution company, has committed to using 100 per cent renewable energy for any new connection to its grid.
Frédéric Krikorian, Énergir’s vice-president of sustainability, public affairs and brand, told SustainableBiz the move is part of a broader plan the company initiated about three years ago.
“We've initiated some actions to decarbonize the building sector on the existing side. But on the other end in new buildings, there were still fossil natural gas hookups,” he said.
“So at one point, in terms of consistency and giving us the most chances to achieve our goal, we came to the conclusion that instead of connecting new customers on fossil fuel and then converting them to renewable energy, we should start initially with renewable energy and skip one step.”
Énergir has a goal of achieving carbon neutrality in the buildings it serves by 2040, and in the energy it distributes by 2050.
As a diversified energy business, Énergir has over $9 billion in assets, serving approximately 535,000 customers. It is also the largest electricity distributor and the sole natural gas distributor in Vermont. It invests in renewable energy such as hydroelectric, wind and solar projects.
Énergir’s renewables plan
Énergir will begin with Montreal shopping mall Régie de l’énergie in the coming weeks to secure approval for this new initiative as part of its 2023–2024 rate case.
Customers will be able to opt for dual energy-renewable natural gas (RNG) mode – 70 per cent electricity and 30 per cent RNG – or 100 per cent RNG, “at a competitive price” according to a release. The company also allows customers to choose their RNG input, from 25 per cent to 100 per cent.
“With the same amount of RNG, we can cover three houses for instance, instead of one,” Krikorian said. “So it's really to use both systems (to) deliver renewable energies and optimize them in terms of peak times, but (also) in terms of renewables and cost savings.”
Customers already on natural gas can also sign up for the program. Krikorian explained it would only require the installation of a heat pump and the rate would be cheaper.
Quebec's goal is to have a minimum of 10 per cent of its gas system’s distribution comprised of RNG by 2030.
Énergir is working to prevent an additional one million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 through energy efficiency programs.
As part of its Vision 2030 plan, Énergir hopes to achieve a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions related to natural gas in the building sector. This was implemented to assist Quebec in its objective to reduce building sector greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030. From there, the goal for the province is net-zero in the sector by 2040.
“I'm proud to say that we've modellized everything, what we can bring in terms of GHG (greenhouse gas) emission reduction with energy efficiency, what we can deliver with RNG (and) what we can deliver with the dual energy solution.”
A release states the company views its natural gas network as mature and it plans to diversify operations by taking part in the development of energy loops and RNG production.
Énergir and RNG
In December, Énergir Development, which holds a 29 per cent interest in Énergir, L.P., partnered with Danish company Nature Energy to co-develop 10 biomethanization facilities in Quebec. The partnership is expected produce up to 200 million cubic metres of RNG per year.
The facilities will reduce 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road. They are expected to generate approximately $1 billion in investments and the plan is to have all 10 operating by 2030.
“We will work on both sides . . . So we increase the RNG supply, and then we work on commercializing RNG to customers,” Krikorian said. “But the next step in terms of RNG production is for the distribution company, signing as much supply contract as possible to increase the amount of RNG available in the system.”
He said an investment decision on the first Nature Energy project should come by this summer.
Énergir first took interest in RNG around 2009.
In 2018, Sainte-Hyacinthe became the first city in Quebec to complete a biomethanization project in partnership with Énergir. The $80-million project reduces emissions by approximately 49,000 equivalent tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. The RNG is being injected into Énergir’s network for a minimum of 20 years.
In June 2022, Énergir announced a partnership with environmental and waste management services provider WM to build a $200-million energy complex in Sainte-Sophie to convert waste biogas into RNG. It will divert 50,000 tonnes of organic matter from landfills and reduce emissions by 140,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.